Occasionally, one happens upon a piece of music that defies easy description, something that resists the natural human inclination to place into easy categorizations. I find myself drawn to such things, as I find this part of our humanity to be something that limits our ability to explore new ideas, and I do enjoy the experience of learning, which inherently involves something that’s new, maybe even disconcerting.
One might consider our first band this evening to be an example of such a bit of music, something that draws from several different banks of ideas. Portishead first appeared in our musical consciousness back in 1994 with their excellent disk Dummy. At one point they were often referred to as “trip-hop“, and identified with similarly-minded British artists like Tricky and Massive Attack. I think that, even as their output has been purposefully sparse over the years, they have outlasted such categorization. We heard two songs from Dummy, Mysterons and Glory Box, with a couple songs from their excellent 1998 live disc Roseland Live NYC (Humming and Cowboys) stuck inbetween, before finishing with some marvelously multi-layered songs from their excellent (some might even call it brilliant, and I would agree) 2008 disc Third (Machine Gun and Small).
Next we hear some live Jethro Tull. The occasion was pretty special, the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. The performance is about as good as one can get, including a performance of Aqualung’s My God prior to when it was recorded for that seminal album. We also heard something from their first album, My Sunday Feeling, and With You There to Help Me, which featured a duet between Ian Anderson‘s flute and John Evan’s piano.
Charlie Parker’s birthday was last week, and I missed playing some of the Bird on last week’s show. So we’ll celebrate his birthday a week late with a sampling of some material that was recorded off a radio broadcast from the Royal Roost nightclub in New York City. That these recordings even exist strike me as being a bit miraculous, but that they come to us in such wonderful quality is like a gift directly from the hand of God, his way of making sure that we do not forget the awesome wonder that was Bird’s saxophone. Tonight we heard material from two sets: January 15, 1949 (Scrapple from the Apple, Be-Bop and Hot House), and January 22, 1949 (Oop Bop Sh’bam, Scrapple from the Apple, and Salt Peanuts). You will note that we did hear one song, Scrapple from the Apple, twice. I wanted to be able to get both sets in, and both performances of the song are noteworthy. All in all, some absolutely incredible performances by a true instrumental genius who, in these instances, were caught on tape at the height of his powers.
Our next recording was done at the Young Vic in London on April 26, 1971. The Who were in the midst of preparing their next recording project, which at the time was a new rock opera called Lifehouse, and they wanted to try the new material out before a live audience. Although the music here was great, they eventually discarded the rock opera concept and released the music as Who’s Next, which turned out to be one of the greatest albums in rock music history. We heard three songs from this set: Love Ain’t For Keeping, Pure and Easy, and Young Man Blues.